My Big Break

How pho­tograph­ing the ma­jes­tic musk ox made Roy Manger­snes’ ca­reer

NPhoto - - Contents - Keith Wil­son

Nearly 400 kilo­me­tres north of Nor­way’s cap­i­tal city of Oslo lies Dovre­f­jell Na­tional Park, a vast and pris­tine wilder­ness. This is the do­main of the musk ox, a stocky beast with a mas­sive head and thick coat adapted to the worst ex­tremes of the Arc­tic cli­mate. Four years ago, Roy Manger­snes spent a week in Dovre­f­jell for the sole pur­pose of pho­tograph­ing and film­ing th­ese im­pres­sive beasts.

“The musk ox is an Ice Age gi­ant,” says Roy. “They used to wan­der up there along­side the woolly mam­moth, 40,000 years ago. The plan was to spend one week in the field to cap­ture the essence of the life of the musk ox. I wanted really rough weather with gale force winds to get that shot.”

Work­ing in the first week of Jan­uary, Roy got the rough weather he was seek­ing as tem­per­a­tures plunged to -20°C.

It wasn’t the first time he had pho­tographed musk oxen, but spend­ing such a pro­longed pe­riod on lo­ca­tion in the harsh­est part of win­ter was a new chal­lenge. “It was quite an eye-opener,” Roy ad­mits, “and I learnt more about my­self as a pho­tog­ra­pher.”

But there was more to this ven­ture than get­ting im­ages of musk oxen shak­ing snow from their shaggy coats. Roy was work­ing with a videog­ra­pher and an as­sis­tant to record a pi­lot film for a tele­vi­sion pitch. “I was the pre­sen­ter. We wanted to make a se­ries called

Be­hind the Lens, about wildlife pho­tog­ra­phers and how we go about our work.”

Each day be­gan with the three men haul­ing their gear up the slopes on sleds for two hours to get to the oxen be­fore sun­rise, ex­cept for one day when they camped overnight on lo­ca­tion. Roy had three Nikon D3s bod­ies with him, but broke one – along with a 70-200mm zoom lens – when the wind blew his tri­pod over onto ice.

The break­through

Al­though the team fin­ished their film, the tele­vi­sion se­ries wasn’t com­mis­sioned. How­ever, Roy still re­gards this im­age and the ex­pe­ri­ence sur­round­ing it as a ‘game changer’. He ex­plains: “I knew I loved the Arc­tic and work­ing in the cold and the snow, but spend­ing so much time with th­ese an­i­mals, in this en­vi­ron­ment, with this weather, made me fo­cus on those con­di­tions even more. In that sense it was a game changer be­cause it took me to the place where I wanted to be.”

This ex­pe­ri­ence also had more tan­gi­ble re­wards: thanks to this pho­to­graph, Roy was named the over­all win­ner of the 2013 Global Arc­tic Awards.

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